Reporting from Iraq or Afghanistan, Darfur or Haiti, can be alluring and exciting. But the minute some people put on that flak jacket, something happens.
“The government that is closest to the people governs best.” That sentiment was expressed recently by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and it’s long been a staple of conservative political philosophy and of candidates who want federal programs to be taken over by state and local governments. But liberals embrace it in their own way when they talk about “participatory democracy” and the need for people to be able to make decisions about the issues that directly affect them. The question is: what does it mean for government to be “closer” to people?
As I've said before, the objectivity-fetishizing conventions of straight news reporting make me crazy. It's not just the odd philosophical throwback of implying that reporters can somehow avoid writing as particular people situated in particular contexts. It's also the convoluted copy, in which even plain facts can't be stated plainly if they happen to be unpopular. So I was glad when NPR released its new ethics handbook, in which among other things the network states that it favors "truth" over "the appearance of balance" and adds that "if the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports."
Some of the best coverage of the firing of National Public Radio news analyst Juan Williams has been NPR's own. But the broader conversation has quickly become a chorus of ridiculousness.
We asked some expert observers of the religion scene how they are navigating the new media. What do they read, watch and listen to? How have their reading, listening and viewing habits changed over the past decade?Here's Mark Silk: "I’ve always been a news junkie. I still take two dead-tree newspapers—the New York Times and the Hartford Courant. I look at the Washington Post every morning, and I listen to NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered while driving to and from work. At work, I’m in thrall to the continuous news cycle. I check the AP wire on Yahoo as soon as I sit down at my desk, and then scan the general-interest blogs and blogzines—the Daily Dish, Politico, Talking Points Memo, Huffington Post, the Daily Beast."